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Copyright: ©2008 Rusty Wright
OPTIMISM TAKES A BEATING IN TOUGH TIMES
By: Rusty Wright
When the Optimist Club gets pessimistic, you know times are tough.
The Associated Press reports that an Optimist Club meeting in Gilbert, Arizona, started off positive enough – members discussed service projects and enthused over each other’s accomplishments. But then the conversation turned to the war in Iraq, expensive gasoline, food prices, the housing market, and economic uncertainty. Words like “terrified,” “disgusted,” “scary,” and “this mess” entered the conversation.
"There's just entirely too much wrong right now," summarized one member.
The American psyche has taken a thrashing in recent months. Rising fuel costs affect commuter housing and employment decisions. UPS computers help plot delivery routes to minimize gas-wasting left turns. Constant media attention to economic crisis reflects – and some say exacerbates – pervasive pessimism.
Maybe you feel like the country song laments: “If it weren’t for bad luck, I’d have no luck at all.” A Los Angeles Times/Bloomberg poll found 82 percent of Americans believed the nation’s economy was in bad shape. Seventy percent deemed fuel costs a hardship for their families.
How’s your Hummer’s mileage these days? General Motors announced plans to close four truck and SUV plants and to focus on fuel-efficient vehicles. Airline ticket prices climb. Some carriers add checked baggage fees to existing snack fees, prompting critics to quip that in-flight pay toilets may appear next.
A glance at 2008 Gallup polling headlines indicates the extent of US pessimism: “Economy Surpasses Iraq as Most Important Problem.” “Americans Worried About Their Standard of Living.” “Jobs Outlook Worst in Four Years.” “Consumer Confidence Down.” “Pessimism Clouds Housing Market.” “Economic Pessimism Hits Gallup High.”
Whew! Chocolate, anyone? How about some hope?
Losing hope of a positive future can have serious consequences. UCLA psychologist James C. Coleman noted several examples. “… Shipwreck victims who lose hope may die after a few days, even though physiologically they could have survived many days longer.” Loss of hope can contribute to suicide. “Values, meaning, and hope appear to act as catalysts” for mobilizing energy and finding satisfaction. Without them, Coleman reported, life can seem futile.
One enterprising fellow has found a way to rise above gas and travel woes. Kent Couch recently attached helium balloons to his lawn chair and flew over 200 miles from Oregon into Idaho. Couch used a BB gun to shoot balloons to descend. He says he enjoys “the peace, the serenity” from his high flying excursions. This was his third. His wife, Susan, called him crazy.
Not everyone can escape as Couch did. An American Psychological Association survey found that economic and job concerns are contributing to heightened stress in the USA. The APA says a third of Americans experience extreme stress and nearly half feel their stress has increased in recent years. Many handle stress by overeating, increased drinking or smoking. The APA’s list of healthy stress management behaviors includes listening to music, reading, exercising, spending time with family and friends, and praying.
Family, friends and prayer can make a difference. During a particularly dark time in my life, my mentor reminded me of a statement that an early follower of Jesus made in a letter to some friends: “God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God.” That hasn’t been repealed yet, my friend emphasized. He was right. Faith, family, and friends helped me to land on my feet.
Are you optimistic or pessimistic about your future? Popular speaker Robert Schuller has often said, “Tough times never last, but tough people do.” Faith can help develop the endurance we all need to cope with today’s challenging times.
Rusty Wright is an author and lecturer who has spoken on six continents. He holds Bachelor of Science (psychology) and Master of Theology degrees from Duke and Oxford universities, respectively.
"Real Answers™" furnished courtesy of The Amy Foundation Internet Syndicate. To contact the author or The Amy Foundation, write or E-mail to: P. O. Box 16091, Lansing, MI 48901-6091; firstname.lastname@example.org
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